by Lara Friedman
[As we have over the past few months, LobeLog is posting excerpts from the Legislative Round-up published weekly when Congress is in session by the inimitable Lara Friedman of Americans for Peace Now about what Congress is up to and what individual members are saying, particularly about Israel-Palestine and Iran.]
Bills, Resolutions, & Letters
(NEW US-ISRAEL MOU) H. Res. 729: Introduced 5/13 by Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and having 26 cosponsors, “Expressing support for the expeditious consideration and finalization of a new, robust, and long-term Memorandum of Understanding on military assistance to Israel between the United States Government and the Government of Israel.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Press release touting the resolution: Ros-Lehtinen, Deutch, Granger and Lowey Introduce Bipartisan Resolution Urging Expedited Completion of New, Robust and Long-Term Memorandum of Understanding on U.S. Military Assistance to Israel.
(FY17 NDAA – HOUSE VERSION) HR 4909: Introduced 4/12 by Thornberry (R-TX) and Smith (D-WA), the “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017.” For Middle East-related provisions in the base bill, see the May 5, 2015 edition of the Round-Up. All 379 amendments (submitted) are here; the Arms Services Committee’s amendment floor tracker, tracking the fate of those amendments ruled in order, is here. Details of all Middle East-related amendments and their fate are discussed in Section 2, below. NOTE: A similar round of amendments should be expected on the Senate NDAA, which will be on the Senate floor next week. For more on the Senate version of the NDAA, see below.
(FY17 NDAA – SENATE VERSION) S. 2943: On 5/12 the Senate Armed Services Committee completed its markup of the Senate version of the NDAA (the committee’s press release is here) and released a summary of the bill (here). On 5/18, the bill was formally introduced as S. 2943, and is expected to be on the floor next week, where it will undoubtedly be the target a round of amendments similar to what was seen in the House this week, including, quite possibly, new and much anticipated bipartisan (barely) Iran sanctions provisions (as discussed in last week’s Round-Up). Middle East-related provisions in the base bill are discussed in Section 3, below.
(FY17 DOD APPROPS) HR 5293: On 5/17, the House Appropriations Committee released the committee-adopted version of the FY15 Department of Defense Appropriations bill (press release here). The bill was formally introduced on 5/19. Middle East-related details of the bill are discussed in Section 3, below.
(TARGETING IRANIANS & OTHERS) HR 5203: Introduced 5/12 by Forbes (R-VA) and 4 cosponsors, the “Visa Integrity and Security Act of 2016.” Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, the Committees on Homeland Security, and the Foreign Affairs Committee. NOTE: Like earlier legislation passed by Congress related to the Visa Waiver program (see this article in the Hill for background: Visa Waiver Program Improvement Act short on prevention but punitive towards Iranian Americans), this new bill, under the guise of concerns about security, targets Iranians (as well as specified other nationalities) seeking to come to the U.S. for purposes of visiting, studying, or conducting business; it also targets Iranians applying for immigrant visas to the U.S. (for example, to join family members who are U.S. citizens). As noted in the 12/31/15 edition of the Round-Up (in the context of the Visa Waiver legislation, but in analysis that applies here equally): It must be emphasized that in all the years of U.S.-Iran tensions, Congress has NEVER BEFORE tried to limit the Visa Waiver Program [or put arduous – indeed, probably impossible to satisfy – special conditions on visitor, student, and immigrant visas] in this manner. Only now, with the advent of the JCPOA era, is Congress seeking to subvert new security concerns (unrelated to Iran) to demonize travel to [and from] Iran, penalize those who engage in such travel, and effectively discourage travel to and relations with Iran…”
(GOP HOUSE MEMBERS CALL ON OBAMA TO EXPLAIN HIMSELF) Trott et al letter: On 5/17, Rep. Trott (R-MI) led a letter to President Obama, co-signed by 23 House colleagues, calling on the president to “clarify your position on the most recent statements made by Mr. Rhodes and actions taken by your administration that are contrary to the promises made before the JCPOA was signed.”
(GOP SENATORS CALL FOR WHITE HOUSE OFFICIAL TO BE FIRED) Kirk-Cornyn-Barrasso letter to Obama: On 5/16, in the wake of the recent profile of Ben Rhodes in the New York Times,
Senators Kirk (R-IL), Cornyn (R-TX), Barrasso (R-WY) and Perdue (R-GA) sent a letter to President Obama calling on him to “dismiss Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes before he further tarnishes the Office of the President.” The Free Beacon reported on the letter, here (the article is re-posted on Kirk’s website in the place you’d normally expect a press release on a letter that Kirk is leading). Perdue’s press release is here.
(PRESSURE EGYPT ON HUMAN RIGHTS) Beyer et al letter: On 5/12, Rep. Beyer (D-VA) and 27 House colleagues sent a letter to Secretary of State Kerry urging him to “continue to press Egyptian officials to end the campaign of harassment that threatens to close down vital institutions promoting basic human rights and freedoms protected by the Egyptian Constitution.” Beyer’s press release is here.
FY17 NDAA – On the House Floor (Mideast-related amdts)
(FY17 NDAA – HOUSE VERSION) HR 4909: Introduced 4/12 by Thornberry (R-TX) and Smith (D-WA), the “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017.” For Middle East-related provisions in the base bill, see the May 5, 2015 edition of the Round-Up. All 379 amendments (submitted) are here; the Arms Services Committee’s amendment floor tracker, tracking the fate of those amendments ruled in order, is here. Details of all Middle East-related amendments are below. NOTE: A similar round of amendments should be expected on the Senate NDAA, which will be on the Senate floor next week. For more on the Senate version of the NDAA, see below.
Amendments Made “in order” and Adopted (in various groups of en bloc amendments)
- (ISRAEL/IRAN) Roskam (R-IL): (original text here; revised text here) This amendment was amended substantially before being adopted. Originally the amendment was described as follows: “Establishes the sense of Congress that Israelshould be delivered the defensive mechanisms necessary to ensure its independent capability to remove any existential threats and defend its vital national interests. It also requires the President to report on the necessary defensive mechanisms required and on the availability for sale or transfer of these items to Israel.” As noted in last week’s Round-Up, the amendment went beyond asserting/supporting Israel’s right to self-defense, to asserting/supporting Israel’s right to “remove” anything it (or Congress) defines as an existential threat to Israel – and the amendment explicitly defines as such a threat “nuclear and ballistic missile facilities in Iran.” In effect, it was a green light for Israel to attack Iran and calls for the U.S. to provide systems needed to make such an attack possible. While such an approach may appeal to Roskam, it apparently met with objections from others in Congress, leading Roskam to re-draft the amendment. The new version is summarized as follows: “Establishes the sense of Congress that Israel should be able to defend its vital national interests and protect its territory and population against existential threats and mandates that the President report on the necessary defensive mechanisms required and requested by Israel to protect itself against existential threats and on the availability for sale or transfer of these items to Israel.” The new language does not assert anything about Israel “removing” threats.
- (ISRAEL) Higgins (D-NY) & Loudermilk (R-GA): “Authorizes the provision of maritime assistance to Israel in order to protect its offshore energy resources and infrastructure from state and non-state actors.” [Higgins & Loudermilk have also offered this as a freestanding bill: HR 5066]. Loudermilk’s 5/18 press release on the amendment is here.
- (ISRAEL/WATER) Meng (D-NY): “LATE REVISED Authorizes the Secretary of Defense, with the concurrence of the Secretary of State, to enter into agreements with governments of foreign countries, such as Israel and other nations that excel in addressing water scarcity and water resource development issues, in order to develop land-based water resources in support of and in preparation for contingency operations.”
- (IRAN) Roskam (R-IL): “Requires the President to report on the use by the Government of Iran of commercial aircraft and related services for illicit military or other activities.” Roskam spoke on the floor 5/18 in support of his amendment (and tying it explicitly to Boeing).
- (IRAN) Pompeo (R-KS) & Lipinski (D-IL): “Requires the Secretary of Defense to submit a report to Congress on cooperation between Iran and the Russian Federation and to what extent such cooperation affects United States national security and strategic interests.” Pompeo issued press release on passage of the amendment is here. Lipinski spoke in support of the amendment 5/18 on the House floor.
- (IRAN) Meng (D-NY) & Zeldin (R-NY): “Extends the requirement for three years, consistent with the FY13 NDAA, that the President report to Congress on the use of certain Iranian seaports by foreign vessels and the use of foreign airports by sanctioned Iranian air carriers.”
- (IRAN) Ruiz (D-CA): “Authorizes assistance and training to countries bordering the Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea, or Mediterranean Sea in an effort to deter and counter illicit smuggling and related maritime activity by Iran. The program will run through FY2020.” Ruiz spoke on the House floor 5/18 in support of his amendment.
- (IRAN) Peters, Scott (D-CA): “Expresses the Sense of Congress that the United States should work with our Gulf Cooperation Council allies to encourage an enable an integrated ballistic missile defense system to prevent an attack by Iran against such countries.” Peters spoke on the House floor 5/18 in support of his amendment:
- (IRAN) Moulton (D-MA), Wilson (R-SC), Duncan (R-SC), O’Rourke (D-TX): “REVISED Requires the President to officially notify Congress whenever Iran conducts a ballistic missile launch (including ballistic missile tests) and inform the Congress as to actions the President will take in response, including diplomatic efforts to pursue additional sanctions, including through passage of a United Nations Security Council resolution.” Moulton and Wilson spoke on the floor 5/18 in support of the amendment.
- (SYRIA) Moore, Gwen (D-WI): “Expresses the sense of Congress regarding the intentional targeting of attacks against medical facilities and medical providers in Syria.”
- (SYRIA) Nolan (D-MN): “Prohibits funding from the Syria Train and Equip program to recipients that the Secretary of Defense has reported as having misused provided training and equipment.”
- (SYRIA) Yoho (R-FL) & Conyers (D-MI): “Provides for a prohibition on transfer of man-portable air defense systems to any entity in Syria”
Amendments NOT Made “in order” (and therefore not considered)
- (ISRAEL/GOLAN) Lamborn (R-CO): “Expresses a sense of Congress that it is in the United States’ national security interest for Israel to maintain control of the Golan Heights.”
- (PALESTINIANS) King (R-IA): “Prohibits the use of funds authorized by the NDAA from being used to transfer weapons or other military assistance to the Palestinian authority [sic].” NOTE: There is no funding authorized by the NDAA for the Palestinians, for any purpose;
- (ISRAEL/GOLAN) Boustany (R-LA): “Expresses a sense of Congress that Golan Heights is a vital to Israel’s security and at a time when Syria’s civil war has unleashed countless terrorist organizations on Israel’s Northern border, including the Golan Heights the UN and other international organizations should not issue statements or call for actions that would jeopardize Israel’s security, but rather should insist that any peace process must be based on direct bilateral negotiations between Israel and her neighbors.” Boustany press release (and video of his defense of the amendment before the rules committee)
- (ISRAEL/TUNNELS) Quigley (D-IL) and Polis (D-CO): “REVISED Increases funding for the Israeli Anti-Tunnel Defense System by $21 million and decreases funding for the W80-4 life extension program by the same amount.”
- (IRAN) Yoho (R-FL), Franks (R-AZ) & Lamborn (R-CO): “Requires that any future purchase of nuclear goods from Iran be subject to DOD reprogramming. Requires that any OFAC license would have to sit with the congress for 90 legislative days.”
- (IRAN) Walorski (R-IN) and Roskam (R-IL): “Prevents the DoD from using FY17 funds to contract, or conduct significant transactions with Iranian persons such as those who are on the SDN list, part of the IRGC, or part of the Government of Iran.”
- (IRAN) Ellison (D-MN) and Jones (R-NC): “Adds language that clarifies that the bill is not an authorization for the use of military force in Iran.”
- (SYRIA) Nolan (D-MN): “Prohibits funding from the Syria Train and Equip program to recipients that engage in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.”
- (SYRIA) DeLauro (D-CT) & Granger (R-TX): “Prohibits the Department of Defense from entering into a contract or subcontract with Russia’s state-arms dealer Rosoboronexport unless the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretary of State and Director of National Intelligence, certifies that the firm ceased transferring weapons to Syria, Russia pulled out of Crimea, Russian forces have withdrawn from the eastern boarder of Ukraine, and that Russia is not otherwise actively destabilizing Ukraine. Any such certification would be reviewed by the Defense Department Inspector General.”
- (SYRIA) Gabbard (D-HI), Nolan (D-MN), Takai (D-HI) & Jones (R-NC): “Removes the extension of authority for the Syria train and equip program.”
- (SYRIA) Yoho (R-FL) & Peters, Scott (D-CA): “Expresses a sense of Congress condemning Assad’s regime for its use of chemical weapons, including chlorine, on the people of Syria. Includes a sense of Congress that the President should offer material support for the collection of evidence of chemical weapons use in Syria.”
- (SAUDI ARABIA) Conyers (D-MI), Grijalva (D-AZ), Ellison (D-MN) & McGovern (D-MA): “States that none of the funds authorized to be appropriated by this Act or otherwise made available for fiscal year 2017 for the Department of Defense may be obligated or expended to transfer or authorize the transfer of any cluster munitions to Saudi Arabia.”
- (IRAN) Lamborn (R-CO), Franks (R-AZ), Pompeo (R-KS), Hartzler (R-MO): “Expresses a sense of Congress that none of the funds authorized by this Act or otherwise made available to any Federal department or agency should be obligated or expended to purchase heavy water produced in Iran.” Lamborn spoke on the House floor 5/17 about his amendment: “…The reason this amendment was withdrawn and won’t be under consideration in the Committee on Rules for discussion later today is because it deserves to have stand-alone treatment. It is that important… We must not authorize funds to purchase heavy water from Iran. Because this issue is so important, I will work with leadership to make sure that we consider this later as stand-alone legislation.”
- (IRAN) Maloney, Sean (D-NY): “Requires the Director of National Intelligence to establish an integration cell among intelligence agencies to monitor Iranian implementation of and compliance with the JCPOA. Also encourages the creation of a joint intelligence fusion cell to combat Iranian support for terrorist proxy entities.”
- (IRAN) Pompeo (R-KS) & Hill (R-AR): “Prohibits funds authorized or made available by this act to be obligated or expended to purchase heavy water produced in Iran.”
FY17 NDAA – Senate Version
On 5/12 the Senate Armed Services Committee completed its markup of the Senate version of the NDAA (the committee’s press release is here) and released a summary of the bill (here). That summary notes that the bill authorizes $239 million for U.S.-Israeli cooperative missile defense programs, including a $135 million increase to support continued development of the Arrow, Arrow 3, and David’s Sling programs. It notes too that the bill also authorizes $42 million for procurement of Tamir interceptors from the Iron Dome short range rocket defense system and $50 million for the U.S.-Israel anti-tunneling cooperation program.
On 5/18, the bill was formally introduced as S. 2943:, and is expected to be on the floor next week, where it will undoubtedly be the target a round of amendments similar to what was seen in the House this week, including, quite possibly, new and much anticipated bipartisan (barely) Iran sanctions provisions (as discussed in last week’s Round-Up).
Middle East-related provisions in the base bill are as follows:
Sec. 1226: “Additional elements in the annual report on the military power of Iran.” This section amends an existing required report to Congress on Iran to included “an assessment of Iran’s cyber capabilities, including an assessment of Iran’s ability to mask its cyber operations through the use of proxies, irregular forces, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, and other actors” and “an assessment of any assistance to, assistance from, or cooperation by Iran with other countries and non-state actors to increase cyber capabilities.”
Section 1272: “Extension and expansion of authority to support border security operations of certain foreign countries.” This section takes existing authority to support border security operations of certain foreign countries, currently applicable to the Governments of Jordan and Lebanon, and extends/expands it to apply to the Governments of Egypt and Tunisia. It notes specifically that it applies to “Efforts of the armed forces of Egypt and the armed forces of Tunisia to increase security and sustain increased security along the border of Egypt and the border of Tunisia with Libya, as applicable.”
Section 1273: “Modification and clarification of United States-Israel anti-tunnel cooperation authority.” This section increases available funding for this anti-tunnel cooperation from $25 million in FY16 to $50 million in FY17 and specifies that not less than 50% of the amount provided by the US in FY16 “shall be used in fiscal year 2017 for research, development, test, and evaluation activities for purposes of such section in the United States.”
Section 1640: “Deterrence of adversaries in cyberspace.” This section a report on deterrence of adversaries in cyberspace: “Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff shall submit to the President and the congressional defense committees a report on the military and nonmilitary options available to the United States to deter Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, and terrorist organizations in cyberspace.” It also goes into detail about what must be included in the report.
Section 1662: “Iron Dome short-range rocket defense system codevelopment and coproduction.” This section stipulates that of funds appropriated for Procurement, Defense-wide, and available for the Missile Defense Agency, “not more than $42,000,000 may be provided to the Government of Israel to procure Tamir interceptors for the Iron Dome short-range rocket defense system through coproduction of such interceptors in the United States by industry of the
Section 4201: “ Research, development, test, and evaluation.” This section (a detailed table) earmarks $238.835 million for Israeli Cooperative Programs (the FY17 Administration request was for $103.835 million). The table sub-earmarks those funds as follows: $50 million for the Arrow (base program); $25 million for the Arrow-3; and $60 million for David’s Sling.
FY17 Defense Approps – Middle East-related Elements (HOUSE)
On 5/17, the House Appropriations Committee released the committee-adopted version of the FY15 Department of Defense Appropriations bill (press release here, bill text here. On 5/17, the bill was formally introduced as HR 5293, along with the accompanying committee report. Middle East-related details of the bill and report are discussed below.
(Bill language) Funding for Israel: Section 8068 of the bill earmarks a total of $600,735,000 in funding for “Israeli Cooperative Programs.” This funding, which is above and beyond the $3.1 billion in cash military aid (FMF) provided annually to Israel under the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, breaks down as follows:
- $62 million for “procurement of the Iron Dome defense system to counter short-range rocket threats, subject to the U.S.-Israel Iron Dome Procurement Agreement, as amended;”
- $266.511 million for the Short Range Ballistic Missile Defense (SRBMD) program, “including cruise missile defense research and development under the SRBMD program, of which $150,000,000 shall be for co-production activities of SRBMD missiles in the United States and in Israel to meet Israel’s defense requirements consistent with each nation’s laws, regulations, and procedures, of which not more than $90,000,000, subject to previously established transfer procedures, may be obligated or expended until establishment of a U.S.-Israeli co-production agreement for SRBMD;
- $204.893 million for “an upper-tier component to the Israeli Missile Defense Architecture, of which $120,000,000 shall be for co-production activities of Arrow 3 Upper Tier missiles in the United States and in Israel to meet Israel’s defense requirements consistent with each nation’s laws, regulations, and procedures, of which not more than $70,000,000, subject to previously established transfer procedures, may be obligated or expended until establishment of a U.S.-Israeli co-production agreement for Arrow Upper Tier;” and
- $67.331 million for the Arrow System Improvement Program “including development of a long range, ground and airborne, detection suite.”
(Bill language) Funding for Jordan: Funding for Jordan is made available in several areas of the bill:
- Under “Operation and Maintenance, Defense-Wide,” it is provided that an unspecified amount of funds “may be used to support the Government of Jordan, in such amounts as the Secretary of Defense may determine, to enhance the ability of the armed forces of Jordan to increase or sustain security along its borders, upon 15 days prior written notification to the congressional defense committees outlining the amounts intended to be provided and the nature of the expenses incurred.”
- Section 9012 of the bill stipulates that “Up to $500,000,000 of funds appropriated by this Act for the Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund may be used to provide assistance to the Government of Jordan to support the armed forces of Jordan and to enhance security along its borders.”
(Report language) US-Israel Anti-Tunneling Technology: While not specifically earmarked in in the bill, the report notes that “In fiscal year 2016 the United States and Israel jointly initiated the development of a system to detect tunnels built by its enemies, in an effort to prevent future terrorist ncursions on the Israeli border. This new system may also have an application in curbing illegal migration on United States borders. Of the funding provided in fiscal year 2016, Israel promised to match contributions with a combination of actual funding and in-kind contributions of up to the appropriated level of $40,000,000. For fiscal year 2017, the Israeli government has requested and the Committee recommendation provides an additional $42,700,000 to continue this effort. The Committee understands that when practical, every effort will be made to complete portions of this research that are better accomplished in the United States by United States vendors and military research and development centers.”
(Report language) Security Clearance Determinations: The report notes that “The Committee is interested in understanding trends related to security clearance determinations, both initial or periodic reinvestigations, and denials due to Foreign Preference or Foreign Influence. The Committee directs the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Director of National Intelligence, to submit a report to the congressional defense committees not later than 180 days after the enactment of this Act that includes the number of denials or revocations of security clearance requests for fiscal year 2016 and fiscal year 2017 and a list of countries and the number of times each was cited per Guideline B (Foreign Influence) or Guideline C (Foreign Preference) as the disqualifying security concern cause for denial, revocation, or adjudicative delay exceeding one year.” On 5/17, Rep. Israel (D-NY) issued a press release taking credit for this provision (and making clear that, while the Committee’s language does not mention the word “Israel,” this provision is entirely about Israel and accusations of anti-Israel bias in the U.S. government). The press release fails to make clear that the language is in the report, NOT the actual bill; technically that means that the requirement for the report would not have the weight of law; in practice, Administrations tend to treat report language as binding. Also see: Jerusalem Post: Amendment introduced to tackle anti-Israel bias in US Navy security clearances
(Report language): Iran: In the report’s discussion of funding for “Overseas Contingency Operations/Global War on Terrorism” it notes that, “Iran continues to threaten international stability, even though the nuclear agreement with Iran has been negotiated. Iran’s new-found positive public appearance masks its actions to reestablish Persian dominance in the Middle East. It has proxy forces on several battlefields and is working in the cyber arena to destabilize both military operations and global commerce.”
Americans owe it to themselves to read Chas Freeman’s latest book, ‘America’s Continuing Misadventures in the Middle East’, which brings up to date his earlier Middle East Misadventures book – either that, or at least read his recent speech on the topic. This is how empires fall.
By the look of this report on Congressional activity, Republicans are setting the stage for Hillary Clinton’s first war – which, if it follows the historical pattern traced by Freeman, promises to be a colossal failure. Gawd help America.
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